A paper based on the Instructor's Resource Kit, Module 1, Managing the Implementation of Development Projects, by Jerry Brown under the direction of John Didier, World Bank Institute, Washington D.C., 1998. Robert Youker may be reached at bobyouker@worldnet.att.net
and John Didier at jdidier@worldbank.org.
Published here April 2003.

Abstract | Introduction | Hierarchy of Objectives | The Why-How Framework
Another Example | Strategic Alternatives | Horizontal Logic | Summary | Conclusions

Hierarchy of Objectives

The hierarchy of objectives is a tool that helps analyze and communicate the project objectives. It organizes these objectives into different levels of a hierarchy or tree. Different organizations use different names for the various levels and the types of objectives at each level, but otherwise there is a great deal of similarity in approach.

This approach organizes objectives into three broad levels:

  • Policy
  • Strategic, and
  • Operational.

In general, these levels correspond to the top, middle, and working levels of management in an organization. Broad, general objectives, some people call them "goals", that policymakers deal with, for example: "improve economic growth", fall into the top level and are called "policy objectives".

Objectives that are narrower in scope, such as "increase literacy for teenage girls", fall into the middle level and are called "strategic objectives". Objectives that relate directly to a project's deliverables fall into the operational level and are called "project objectives". Objectives that relate to project inputs, i.e. what is needed to make a project function, are also considered operational and are called "input objectives". Operational objectives are usually the concern of working management, including project managers.

Figure 1 shows an example of a hierarchy of objectives for an electric power plant. As shown, the hierarchy has four types of objectives: policy, strategic, project, and input and they are grouped into three levels: policy, strategic, and operational.

Figure 1

Policy Objective: The overall policy objective is to "Increase industrial production". We then ask: How is this to be accomplished? That brings us to the next lower objective, the strategic objective.

Strategic Objective: One way that the country is trying to increase industrial production, the policy objective, is by producing "50 KW of electric power". This is the strategic objective for the project. Of course, there may be other strategic objectives and additional projects that also support the overall policy objective. Again we ask: "How is the 50 KW of electric power to be obtained?" The answer takes us to the next lower level of objective in the hierarchy, i.e. the project objective.

Project Objective: The project objective in most cases is the same as the deliverable for the project. In this case, it is to "Build a new power plant." Asking: "How is the power plant to be built?", again takes us to the next lower level of objective, the input objective.

Input Objective: The input objectives relate primarily to the resources and conditions that are required to accomplish the project. For the power project, they consist of a "$10 million contract, land for the power plant, and necessary labor" as well as expertise

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